Why Nigeria’s quest to attain cargo load centre still elusive—maritime stakeholders

Operators in the maritime industry, in unanimity of opinions, have identified the challenges and obstacles to the Nigeria’s quest of becoming the preferred centre for cargo destination in the West and Central African sub-region.

Cargo load centre is a coveted status by all the littoral countries in the sub-region.

A country so designated will have the privilege of receiving all the cargo destined for the countries in the sub-region from where each of them will come to load to their respective countries.

This status comes with huge economic benefits as it will boost the cargo traffic with its attendant revenue.

However, over the years, Nigeria, given its natural abundant human and material resources, is being touted to be naturally suited to assume the cargo centre status.

According to Otunba  Kunle Folarin, the Chairman of the Port Consultative Committee (PCC),Nigeria has the largest coastline in the sub-region with over 9000 nautical miles, has the largest territorial waters with over 200 nautical miles, has the largest population in Africa with over 184million people, eight littoral states, over two million TEU containers in a year, over 150 metric tonnes of cargo and various ship configurations which berth at the nation’s sea port.

‘’With these attributes, Nigeria should be able to take the comparative advantage it has over her competitors to get the load centre status’’, Otunba Folarin observed.

But he and other majority of concerned stakeholders who spoke on the elusive nature of the cargo hub  status for Nigeria, expressed  skepticism on the chances of the country in attaining  the coveted status in the nearest future.

To them, the convergence of obstacles militating against the country’s chances will only make its quest a mere dream.

Dr Taiwo Afolabi, the Executive Vice- Chairman of SIFAX Group outlined major obstacles militating against the attainment of the hub status by Nigeria.

According to him, high level of insecurity in the country, the preponderance of pirate attacks on Nigeria waters, shallow draft of port channels, dearth and decaying port infrastructure, multiplicity of government agencies at the port which pushes up the cost of doing business, poor access roads to the ports and the hydra-headed monster called corruption are some of the factors that have been working against the country quest to attain the hub status.

Afolabi, who spoke through the General Manager, Sifax Haulage, Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd), said, “High incidents of corruption has led to high port cost which has also led to the closure of companies in the country. There is also low level of automation of service delivery in the Nigerian ports and over dependence on one mode of cargo evacuation.”

The National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Kayode Farinto, complained about the frequent interception of containers by officers of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigeria Police even after such containers have been cleared from the port.

He said SON has turned itself into a revenue generating agency instead of ensuring adherence to high standards of imported and locally made goods.

Farinto also frowned at what he called incessant alerts by the Nigeria Customs Service that disrupt and elongate cargo clearing process with the aim of extorting importers and their agents.

The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms Hdiza Bala Usman said political interference is another militating factor that inhibits the port authority to do the needful towards the attainment of the hub status.

However, the stakeholders believed that all these challenges could be surmounted if the government muster the necessary political will to correct these anomalies.

Otunba Folarin lamented that lack of political will by successive administrations has robbed the country the coveted status of cargo hub in the sub-region.

‘’Government cannot commandeer cargo to our ports, we have to earn it and the political will to drive this quest for cargo hub status is not there’’, Otunba Folarin observed.

The lack of political will to drive Nigeria’s quest for hub status has therefore led other smaller counties with less human and material resources to be flexing muscle with Nigeria.

Countries in the sub-region like Togo, Ivory Coast and Ghana are becoming potent threats to Nigeria’s quest to clinching the enviable status as the preferred destination for cargo in the West and Central African sub-region.